JERUSALEM, Israel – Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year. In Israel, everything closes down. There is no traffic on the roads, outside of security personnel.
On Thursday night, police were on hand to protect thousands of Israelis who came to pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem's Old City.
"Police secured late night prayers at the Western Wall. Tens of thousands of people visited the Western Wall and the Old City as heightened security continued throughout the evening and into the night," a statement by Israel Police spokesman read. Security measures will continue for Yom Kippur, with special emphasis on the Old City and Western Wall area, the statement concluded.
Pre-holiday terror attacks are nothing new in Israel. Last year, a Palestinian terrorist gunned down two Israelis in Jerusalem just before police completed security preparations for Yom Kippur.
Sadly enough, this year is no different.
Early Tuesday morning, an Arab standing in line for a routine check near the Jewish community where he worked opened fire, murdering three Israelis – two security guards and a Border Police officer – and critically injuring a fourth, who managed to return fire, killing the shooter.
The day before, Nimr al-Jamal – a 37-year-old father of four from a nearby village – posted a note to his wife on social media. The IDF released a photo and translation of the Arabic-language post. A few weeks earlier, his wife had left him.
In the note to his estranged wife, Jamal absolved her of any part in his plan, told her she was "a good wife" and "a compassionate mother" and blamed himself for their troubled marriage.
He knew he would probably be killed and that would ensure his family's financial future. Sure enough, rival Palestinian factions, Fatah in Ramallah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, praised the murders, declaring him a shahid (martyr) and likely guaranteeing a monthly stipend for his wife and children.
Families of the three Israelis who were killed, two Jewish and one Arab, are mourning the loss of their sons. Many are praying for them.
In a few hours, the silence will be palpable. Security forces will do their best to protect Israelis as they observe the biblical commandment to fast and pray on this sacred day.
"And this shall be a statute forever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute forever." (Lev. 16:29-31)